Sunday, July 14, 2024
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The Other Half

Busy,busy, busy.

Did anybody notice where I misplaced the first half of, what is it ? 2005 ? A lot of sludge out the old bilge pump during six months that flew by like drunken America West pilots on the Miami -Dallas run.

Patrick Musimu blew up the world with his 200 meter No Limits dive, that happened. That is awfully, awfully deep. Inconceiveably deep. Deeper, for example, than the operational depths for World War II era combat submarines. Patrick could have waved to the captain of Das Boot as he raced past it on his way to really deep water.

The Performance Freediving team did it yet again, and again in its ancestral home in reborn, post-hurricane Grand Cayman.

Records, records, records.

Nice is coming up in September. I had dinner with Martin Stepanek last week, and he’s looking fit for duty. A definite contender for the World Constant Ballast Championship, but many’s the slip twixt the cup and the lip. He’s training hard, but always the academic physiologist, he’s looking for every edge.

The next morning I found myself in a clinic with Martin – a new form of freediver socializing, having blood drawn and comprehensive physiological panels reported back. My blood looked like dilute cherry Gatorade. His looked like blood. He’s going back to sleeping in his hypoxic tent, so the next round of tests, which we’ll both have just before Nice, will bring to a conclusion the research project we conceived of last year but never executed. Read about it in Deeper Blue.

Here in my neighborhood, Florida, it is the season of the shark. Three attacks in less than a week, one fatal. One ( not the fatality) a foriegn tourist. I hope this isn’t a return to that awful situation 10-15 years ago when foriegn visitors to Florida were preyed upon by carjackers and armed robbers. I think it unlikely, since nowadays almost everybody here is a foriegner. I’m forgetting my English – so few opportunities to give it a workout.

My own experiment in relearning freediving will enter a new and dramatic phase in two weeks or so, when I do a Performance Freediving clinic as a student. I took a year off from freediving and all manner of other activities not involving a couch plus a book or a television set. I lived the Normal Life, the way the greater number of my fellow humans do. I moved not, when not absolutely neccesary. I grew a belly only slightly smaller than that of my Performance Freediving colleague on Grand Cayman, a few weeks before she gave birth to her gorgeous baby girl. Too bad her home was pulverized by the hurricane.

So now, nearly a year has gone by since I last set eyes on an ocean, although there is a very large one ( the Atlantic) 15 minutes away, and another ( the Gulf of Mexico) an hour or so in the other direction.

Freediving, it turns out, is not exactly like riding a bicycle. It does not all come back to you. Now, 70 days into my re-entry, I’m stuck. I can’t do the static apnea drills I used to run through with ease. I do my 50m dynamic apnea repeats in the pool, but they don’t get any easier and I don’t see any way to get beyond this. My last blood chemistries were all in the ‘normal’ range, but still well below the richer numbers I always tested before becoming a couch potato.

Static apnea is, perhaps, the First Pillar of Freediving. There’s no air underwater, so unless one is able to hold one’s breath, it just doesn’t work. I may have to update that observation if early rumors of an Israeli invention which actually does enable a diver to exploit the oxygen dissolved in water are true, but for now, my friends, static apnea is the key. It is the best single predictor of how deep you can go, or how far you can go. Work on it. I will. But I will be in Israel later this month on the trail of this newly-patented non-scuba underwater breathing system !

I certainly have gained a lot more understanding and sympathy for all those marvelous, intrepid people trying to break into our sport. It’s harder than it looks. They deserve the admiration and respect of veterans. Our German friends have a lovely, complimentary term for newbies : Senkrechtstarter, literally, a ‘vertical starter’, an up-and-comer ( hat tip to Sam Kirby, International Woman of Mystery). Especially well suited to our sport, isn’t it ?

Mid-summer in South Florida. July 4 is the American Independence Day, so everything of a productive nature has ground to a halt for 4 days. Floridians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, so as soon as it became clear that Independence Day would fall on a Monday, everyone immediately marked the preceding Friday as a personal holiday. There is a certain admirable symmetry to it, a balance that is good.

I shall hie me to the beachfront tomorrow evening to observe the stupendous fireworks displays all along the coast and in the interior. South Florida is as flat as a billiard table, so one can see the explosions miles away. The rockets and so forth are sold in every supermarket, and there seem to be no discernible limits on their power or range. Some of them look like they would require a three-person crew to operate. The evenings have looked and sounded like downtown Fallujah for several days already, as the good citizens train for the main event.

I mean to slip into the ocean tomorrow night after midnight with one of my pals, after the full-throttle nuclear display the City of Fort Lauderdale will put on, apparently to remind the common citizens just who’s Boss in these parts. "You call that a rocket ? This is a rocket !" Maybe we’ll bring some glow sticks, arrange them in an artful way on the bottom. It may seem like a strange way to become reacquainted with the Ocean, but then, certain sorts of rendezvous are best made in the dark, non ?

Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik
Paul Kotik has been a Staff Writer and Freediving Editor for He lives in Florida, USA with his family.